Around 400 BC Hippocrates, the father of modern medicine, said “let thy food be thy medicine and thy medicine be thy food”. In a society where drug approaches dominate government funded medical care it may seem inconceivable to many on the surface that food and herbal supplements could act as a powerful medicine. In this second part of our immune boosting series we will be exploring some of Mother Nature’s medical masterpieces, immune boosting herbs. These powerhouses pack a serious punch in boosting resistance to bacterial and viral assault, and their prudent use can boost the quality of your life during the harsh ‘flu season. Here is a selection of some readily available potent immune herbs.
Is an all-time favourite in immune boosting herbs among naturopaths as well as in Chinese herbal medicine to boost immune function, and for good reason. Astragalus has been used traditionally for hundreds of years to raise vitality, promote healing and tissue regeneration. Astragalus also possesses gentle antibiotic, pain relieving and relaxing properties. Here is a true immune tonic, having the remarkable capacity to boost all aspects of cellular immunity.
Astragalus is particularly good for those with more long term viral immune issues, it stimulates the immune system and has been demonstrated to possess strong immune restorative effects. It is good for both prevention and treatment of colds and ‘flu.
Is used in traditional Western naturopathic medicine to help prevent and relieve the symptoms of colds, including fever. From an immune point of view, olive leaf shows broad-spectrum anti-microbial activity against many viruses, bacteria, yeasts and fungi, as well as significant anti-inflammatory activity.
Another beauty, echinacea is excellent for sore throats and a snotty nose. It is fantastic as a liquid even on its own. Remember you can tell if it’s excellent quality as, when you gargle and swallow echinacea, it leaves a reassuring tingle in your mouth for 5-10 minutes afterwards! Look for echinacea that states the roots and flowering tops are used and not the whole dried plant, as cheaper, less effective echinacea formulations utilise the less effective parts of the plant.
While possessing modest immune boosting properties on its own, ginseng is found in some of the best quality ‘off the shelf’ immune boosting formulae available in health food stores. Ginseng is excellent for those with busy lifestyles, as it is a potent ‘adaptogen’, that is, it helps the body adapt to the effects of physical and mental stress. Panex ginseng has also been shown to support healthy adrenal function to help prevent adrenal burnout. Panax is particularly good for those working long hard hours, who are physically and mentally exhausted.
The king of bitters. I love this herb! Andrographis is excellent to take at the first sign of a sniffle. If there were one herb I couldn’t live a winter without it would have to be andrographis. A 2004 meta-analysis of andrographis in the treatment of simple upper respiratory tract infection reported on two double-blind, randomised controlled trials that compared andrographis to a placebo and one that compared the herb to paracetamol. In the first trial, andrographis was found to be more effective than the placebo in reducing symptoms of tiredness, nasal secretion and at reducing intensity and frequency of cough, mucus production, headache and earache, along with fewer days of sick leave.
When you exercise you increase your circulation and your blood flow throughout your body. The components of your immune system are also better circulated, which means your immune system has a better chance of finding an illness before it has a chance to spread. In a sense, exercising along with natural potent supplements helps your immune system to be more efficient in weeding out and acting upon viruses and diseases.
Prevention is better than cure
When our immune system initially becomes compromised there is generally an 8-12 hour window when we feel the initial tickle of a cold or ‘flu. This is the time to strike with a good dose of preventative medicine. Dosing up on the right herbs at the right time is in my opinion the best way to deal with the pesky ‘flu. Time and time again I have seen this demonstrated. If you or someone you know gets sick at the slightest puff of a cool breeze or even if you generally have a bout or two of cold and ‘flu a year, have a chat to your professional naturopath who is best placed to suggest to you the most appropriate combination of potent immune stimulating herbs for you and your family.
Kane Parsons, N.D., is a consulting naturopath and owner of Dunsborough Home of Health in WA’s beautiful Dunsborough/Margaret River region. Kane possesses a solid background in both clinical practice, research and education where he has delivered educational seminars on natural medicine to health professionals across the country. Kane is also passionate about promoting the timeless principles and practical applications of the ancient Indian yogic system of philosophy called Vedanta or ‘self knowledge’.
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